Disney Promotes Two Key Execs to Boost European Online Presence

Walt Disney International Europe and the Buena Vista Internet Group (BVIG) announced Monday that they’ve promoted two executives to senior posts — as the company continues its aggressive foray into European e-commerce ventures.

Andrew Barron was named executive vice-president of new media and business development for Walt Disney International Europe and Chafic Naija was named senior vice-president and managing director of Buena Vista Internet Group Europe.

Barron joined Walt Disney TV in 1995, as director of business development, and subsequently negotiated agreements and several equity investments in HBO Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Naija joined Disney Online in 1996, one month before the launch of Disney.com. As director of business development for Disney Online and later BVIG, Naija developed strategic partnerships with Netscape, Microsoft, Infoseek and other key partners.

The corporate parents and guardians of Mickey Mouse and dozens of other memorable characters said that the promotions would enable the companies to leverage the companies’ combined strengths for cross-media initiatives in Europe. BVIG is responsible for creating and operating Disney’s extensive network of Web sites.

“The new-media marketplace is evolving rapidly, and we are now well positioned to build on the success of BVIG internationally,” said Kevin Mayer, executive vice president of BVIG. “Both Andrew and Chafic have proven track records in building new businesses within Disney. We look forward to their successful partnership in developing a leading position for BVIG brands and assets across Europe.”

Taking the Yank Out Of Mickey

After suffering a disastrous introduction to Europeans with the opening of the Disneyland Europe theme park near Paris earlier this decade, Disney has slowly become accepted by European consumers. The park has rebounded and the company has been quick to seize on its acceptance by unveiling Web sites across the continent.

BVIG has launched individual sites in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Naija was responsible for converting the sites from promotional to revenue generating, the company says, by developing sales through ads and sponsorships and eventually through e-commerce ventures.

In addition to the European sites, BVIG operates individual sites in Japan, Taiwan, Brazil and Australia. It also oversees Disney’s interest in Family.com, ABC.com, ABCNEWS.com and ESPN.com. The company, which moved its international headquarters from Paris to London last year, also oversees the GO Network, launched earlier this year with Infoseek.

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